It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas because, let’s face it, it is an expensive time of year and trying to do it on one month’s pay packet is tricky at best. If you want to enjoy all the positives of the festive season without worrying about the overdraft or the January credit card bill, this guide will show you how to plan your family Christmas to save money.
One word of warning…it helps if you start at least a month or two early.
Steps to planning your budget-friendly family Christmas
Create a realistic budget
Yes, budgeting is dull. But it is also extremely helpful to make sure you don’t blow the bank on festivities. Be realistic over your Christmas spending, and include gifts, decorations, food and any other holiday-related expenses you can think of within the budget. How you distribute the cash between these items depends on how much you have available, how many people you need to buy gifts for and who you are feeding too.
Having a clear budget in mind will help you prioritise your spending and avoid unnecessary purchases.
Make a gift list and stick to it
Following on from the previous point, this is the time of year when shops are trying their hardest to get you to part with your cash for stuff you don’t even really want. So, go to the stores with a list and…here’s the important bit…stick to it!
Work out who you have to buy for and think about what you want to get them before you leave the house or go online. Spontaneous purchases can often be costly and turn out not to be that useful at all. Better to plan in advance and simply find the best price for what you know they want.
The same goes for decorations and food. No one knows you saw the mega deluxe chocolate fountain in the middle aisle at Aldi, so no one is going to miss it on Christmas Day.
Starting shopping a few months out from the big family Christmas is great for a number of reasons. There are often discounts at quieter times of the year, you have more time to find the best price and you spread the cost over a few months. It does involve some level of preparation, but once you understand the price savings, that can be enough motivation to get organised.
Scour Black Friday…with caution
Black Friday is now a thing around the world. It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US, where retailers supposedly offer big bargains to usher in the Christmas shopping season. Except, not all deals are great deals as we reported last year.
If you look hard, you can find some real bargains, but there are also very many ‘discounts’ that are actually just at the regular selling price apart from two hours in March when they shoved £100 extra on the price tag.
So approach with caution. There are some loss leaders out there, but obviously the point is to tempt you in with those and then entice you into buying loads of other things you don’t need. Be strong.
If you have an inner-Kirstie Allsopp, channel her right now and create your own homemade decorations. Get the kids involved too on a rainy, boring autumn Sunday and do something useful rather then vegging in front of Netflix.
By creating paperchains and snowflakes and other festive items, you can decorate the home for the family Christmas for a snip of the cost of buying the stuff in.
Look at different gifting options
The chances are that everyone else in your circle is feeling the pinch too, so now is the time to suggest some smart gifting options. Rather than every adult or couple buy for every other adult or couple, consider a Secret Santa. That way, you just buy one, nice present for someone and reduce the layout for all involved. It doesn’t even have to be secret, but that does add an extra level of fun on Christmas Day.
Get the kids to make presents for grandparents, cousins and so on. Something heartfelt is better than spending unnecessarily on something that will end up in landfill before New Year.
Stagger the food shop
Obviously, you can’t buy all the fresh food you will need for Christmas in October (although the sprouts will probably put up a good fight to last that long), but you can start stocking up on other items. Chocolates will last (as long as you put them somewhere you won’t find them after you get in from the pub), as will biscuits and even Christmas cake. You can also buy frozen items, which are generally cheaper, such as pigs in blankets and your turkey months in advance to spread the coast.
Grab a little at a time as you do the big shop and the impact of the food bill for your family Christmas will be lessened significantly.